The power of goats

May 18, 2016

There are no magic solutions to ending poverty. But there are goats and that’s about as close as it gets to simple solutions to complex problems.

In a rural village in Zambia, a widowed mother of five children struggles to break out of the cycle of poverty and to secure a brighter future for her children. Her mud and thatch home sits miles from the main road, which means access to services such as health and education are hard to find.

Rural Zambia faces some of the greatest development challenges in the world, with 35-45% of children stunted from malnutrition, and an education system with a budget that is inadequate to meet the needs of a growing population. Many families pull their children out of school after the eighth grade when free education ends, but many children drop out earlier since families can’t afford basic supplies like uniforms, exercise books and pencils.

Goats can change all of this. Goats are catalysts for change, creating a tipping point for futures filled with opportunity rather than obstacles.

Plan International donates goats to communities like the ones in Zambia, and these goats create a cascade of opportunities that didn’t exist before. Take the widowed mother, for example. She received her goats and bred them to create more goats. She gave back the first two she had gotten so that others could benefit. With her goats, she was able to provide milk and much-needed nutrition for her family.

And thanks to Plan’s integrated and comprehensive approach to development, she received agricultural extension services to ensure her goats were healthy, and she used the income from the sale of other goats she bred to buy tools like the plow she proudly displayed. She rented the plow to neighboring farmers to till their land and increase their harvest, which created better vegetables in the local market and higher returns for those farmers.

One of her children was a sponsored child through Plan’s programs, so she didn’t need to worry about that young boy’s education and could continue to invest the profits from her goats into her growing cottage enterprises. Nearby, through another Plan program in the community, a young man proudly displayed his newly-built farm store that sold everything from local eggs to fertilizer. He had grown his business from a small roadside box with a few tomatoes for sale into a real enterprise with employees and customers like the widowed mother who now had greater demand for his products as her farming endeavors took off.

Perhaps the most dramatic change goats make is to the people who receive them. No longer are they without options. The spark in the mother’s eyes as she showed off her farm and surveyed all she had created said it all. She was no longer a victim of circumstance, but an agent of change. And it all started with a goat.